BSA Decisions Ngā Whakatau a te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho

All BSA's decisions on complaints 1990-present

McDonald and Radio New Zealand Ltd - 2009-150

  • Peter Radich (Chair)
  • Leigh Pearson
  • Mary Anne Shanahan
  • Tapu Misa
  • Donald McDonald
Radio New Zealand Ltd
Radio New Zealand National

Complaint under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989
All Night Programme – host used the phrase “50 times less power” – allegedly inaccurate

Standard 5 (accuracy) – complaint vexatious and trivial – decline to determine under section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act

This headnote does not form part of the decision.


[1]   At approximately 12.10am on Radio New Zealand National on Saturday 24 October 2009, the radio host of the All Night Programme discussed the “World Solar Challenge”, a race across Australia using cars powered by the sun. He referred to Cambridge University’s entry, saying:

“‘Endeavour’ requires 50 times less power than a normal petrol-fuelled vehicle, and experts believe that aspects of its design should provide a model for green vehicles in the future” – that from team spokeswoman Lucy Hickmet.


[2]   Donald McDonald made a formal complaint to Radio New Zealand Ltd, the broadcaster, alleging that the programme was inaccurate because the meaning of “50 times less power” was unclear.


[3]   Standard 5 of the Radio Code of Broadcasting Practice is relevant to the determination of this complaint. It provides:

Standard 5 Accuracy

Broadcasters should make reasonable efforts to ensure that news, current affairs and factual programming:

  • is accurate in relation to all material points of fact;
  • and/ordoes not mislead.

Broadcaster's Response to the Complainant

[4]   RNZ noted that the programme host was previewing the “World Solar Challenge” which was about to be held in Australia and some of the teams entering the challenge. It said that the statement complained about was immediately attributed to the Cambridge University team’s spokeswoman. RNZ considered that the comment was not a material fact which affected the overall thrust of the story. It declined to uphold the complaint.

Referral to the Authority

[5]   Dissatisfied with the broadcaster’s response, Mr McDonald referred his complaint to the Authority under section 8(1B)(b)(i) of the Broadcasting Act 1989. He maintained that “50 times less” was “impossible” and that the “maximum less is 99%”.

Authority's Determination

[6]   The members of the Authority have listened to a recording of the broadcast complained about and have read the correspondence listed in the Appendix. The Authority determines the complaint without a formal hearing.

[7]   The Authority notes that, over a number of years, Mr McDonald has repeatedly referred complaints about trivial accuracy points to the Authority.1 The accuracy standard changed in July 2009 and now only relates to “material points of fact”, and the use of the phrase “50 times less power” was clearly not material to the overall focus of this item. The Authority considers that Mr McDonald’s complaint was dealt with adequately by the broadcaster.

[8]   Section 11(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 allows the Authority to decline to determine a complaint which it considers to be frivolous, vexatious, or trivial. Pursuant to this section the Authority declines to determine this complaint on the grounds that the point raised by Mr McDonald was trivial.


For the above reasons the Authority declines to determine the complaint.

Signed for and on behalf of the Authority


Peter Radich
23 March 2010


The following correspondence was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:

1.           Donald McDonald’s formal complaint – 24 October 2009
2.          RNZ’s response to the complaint – 19 November 2009
3.          Mr McDonald’s referral to the Authority – 22 November 2009
4.          RNZ’s response to the Authority – 15 December 2009

1See for example, McDonald and TVNZ, Decision No. 2008-035, McDonald and TVNZ, Decision No. 2005-012